The Tapestries(from PEACEWEAVER)

While I was practicing yoga regularly, I redecorated my home. My tastes were bohemian, but I was concerned about surrounding myself with tapestries made in India about gods I do not understand. I searched for Catholic art, but I could not find anything that even remotely hit the style I was seeking. What’s more is that everything was the traditional Catholic paintings that I had grown up surrounded by, the ones that embraced suffering so fully that it was all I could feel when I saw them. Other people may not have the history I have with them, but there is a lot of pain and confusion for me in the typical Catholic art. As I continued to search I eventually found a few pieces I really loved, but they were so expensive I had no hope that I could afford them within the next century. I was so angry at how expensive everything was, and so frustrated that I finally decided to just get the Indian tapestries, but I would only get the ones that had a strong Christian spiritual meaning for me.

I chose a popular yellow tapestry with the symbol for Aum in the center because of how God had revealed Himself to me in their philosophy, a tapestry of elephants-which God had used to help me pray about some issues in my life, and a peacock tapestry that as far as I could tell was not associated with any deities. I treasured these tapestries. I took every picture in front of them, I planned which one I was going to use in the baby’s room, when I hopefully someday got a nursery. I laid them on the bed gingerly when I needed color in my room during long periods of stress. I designed my bedroom around them when I was pregnant with my first child.

As my two babies grew into toddlers, they used to love to play with the tapestries. During a time of particularly difficult post partum depression and hormone balance aggravated by what I can only ascribe to spiritual warfare, my oldest pulled on the corner of one that I had awkwardly hanging from the curtain rod in our basement apartment. It shredded down the whole side. She had pulled on it before leaving little rips, but this time the whole thing was shredded. A postpartum rage rippled over me and a she ran giggling to the other room, I ripped the tapestry in half, holding my breath while I cried so she wouldn’t hear me.

It occurred to me that that particular tapestry was probably not a great one to have around kids. My husband and I knew and understood the reason I had it and what it meant, but my girls would not for a long time. I threw the remains of it away mourning the independence I had lost. I cried too about how in motherhood the pretty pieces of art I loved were getting destroyed, the worst was a painted bowl I ate from for practically every meal. It was a bag of chunks of ceramic now, and it broke my heart.

The thought that the girls would not understand the tapestries stuck with me. For about a month I prayed and thought about it until in a progesterone and anxiety and spiritual dark night induced haze I pulled them all down and threw them all out. I kept the peacock one a little longer because it didn’t have a deity, but one day in another of these turbulent days I read on google there was a cult that worshipped Satan in a dark blue peacock, so I threw everything in my house that had a peacock on it away. (I found out later that the peacock is a symbol for Jesus so take that for what it’s worth.)

I honestly don’t know if it was wrong for me to have the tapestries in the first place or not, God knew it was about Him. I think maybe it was ok for me, but not my kids who were too young to understand and impressionable. As I began to do yoga and decorate again, I got alternating answers from God, yes yoga, no idols, yes art, no misleading art. I began to pray that God would help me create art that would meet that desire for color I had, and that He would help me to help others with the same struggle.

At first I thought maybe His answer was no. I started finding all these Catholic artists who were amazing. Plus, what I was trying to do with tapestries wasn’t working. I was painting, and when I did I prayed beforehand. When I work on any art, it is a prayer with the Holy Spirit, I ask Him for help and sometimes I can feel His guidance, sometimes I can’t, but the best is when I dive see the plan and it suddenly turns into something amazing and I can’t take credit for it. I went through a phase where nothing was working, these weird amalgamations of color sort of happened and took over everything I tried to make.

I hated them, and I felt so down on my work, Until a few months later, when I realized that the paintings resemble the crystals and nature art I love so much, but are all actually connected to God. I could not wait to buy every single one(but I had to because we were on a low income budget with toddlers. 🤦🏽‍♀️) What’s more is I already had them available to buy as tapestries. When I built my page on a website I didn’t even know had tapestries, I allowed them but it did not even occur to me that this was an answered prayer. Months later, in the middle of the night I woke up and realized I had created a line of bohemian tapestries that were rooted in God and not gods. The tapestries I needed 5 years ago. I laughed to myself once again about how the Holy Spirit works, and wrote this out for Him.

Selah

Note: This post is not meant to be a promotional post, but if you are interested in my tapestries they are available at https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/julia-odonnell

#Throughfire

As Quarantine began, the community led by Catholic Creatives exploded with innovators inspired to help others through their struggles. We faced our own giants of fear and trepidation, but something in us drove us to community and fellowship. My desire was to fill social media with art to help with the constant deluge of news all over our feeds. I went to Catholic Creatives who had a similar desire and together we launched the #throughfire.

We asked that you create art and share it on every form of social media. Now, the quarantine is at an awkward point of being kind of over but not really, and #throughfire is changing. Catholic Creatives must get back to their daily projects, so suzannagoretti.com will be the new home for the project. I will be sharing your art and hopefully getting to talk to you as you create it. I hope to get all kinds of projects involved so we can all see how many of us are joining together to walk through fire hand in hand.

Please continue to share your amazing works, so that we can keep this fire going. Thank you for all you are doing to bring Beauty to the darkness.

Original Sin

When I gave birth the third time,

Everyone told me what a perfect birth it was.

They marveled at how calm and “unafraid” I was,

How I “roared” my baby earthside.

I’ve ached in that lie for a while now,

Lost in their awe and my own despair.

What they didn’t know is that

While they were calling me calm and unafraid,

I was facing the endless exile of humanity

With trepidation, anger, and despair.

While they were resting and calm,

My head bowed over the water’s edge

And realized nothing will save me.

This is an effect of original sin.

My husband leaves every morning for hours,

Like so many other husbands.

He’s far away, but not as far as many others;

I’m not blind to my own privilege.

He feels so far away to me though,

A piece of my heart leaves with him,

And the hole aches inside of me.

But, “the man shall work…

and the woman will long for her man.”

They tell me, “it could be so much worse,”

My own voices, and others sometimes,

And I know they are right.

I am lucky to be alive, lucky for my family,

Blessed even.

But they are missing the point.

It’s not about my pain being so horrible,

It’s about pain being horrible.

It’s not that my struggles are the worst,

It’s that they are the least.

It’s not a little pain,

It’s the largest pain there is.

It’s the anger, it’s the fear, it’s the hope,

In the face of a God who will not relent.

Or sometimes won’t. It depends….

On what?

On His mood? On my merit?

If God shall number our sins,

“Lord, who can stand,”

But if God does not hear our merits,

Lord, who can stand that either.

Eve may have fallen, and so have we,

But we have also begged you to return.

We have made you king.

We have fallen again and gotten lost

In this terrifying world you have created,

But we have come back to you and we have begged you to return,

No more to go away.

But you won’t hear us, Lord.

Please forgive me, my anger Lord,

My heart breaks over nothing, I know.

My heart breaks for the whole world,

I cry for days over a 6 month old boy I never met,

I break in half over a family who loses their father and almost their mother.

I shatter over shootings, over bombs, over countries, over worlds,

That cry out like violent small humans for your help.

Oh God see us in our weakness and have mercy on us.

We are so desperate for your love we are destroying each other,

God, we want you in your fullness,

We just don’t know it yet,

Have mercy on our misguided attempts to find you.

Reveal yourself, and hold us until we stop crying,

Like a mother with a flailing infant,

Hold us in our fear, despair, rage,

While I kick my legs against you and scream,

Hold me and receive my tears,

Understand that I am lost in your exile,

And I just want You to come home.

I’m not LGBTQ, but I don’t Belong Either

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/08/18/churches-need-less-tradition-more-flexibility-welcome-teens-column/2011731001/

This article and others like it have been posted and talked about on my online and in person Catholic groups over and over again. There’s always a couple of people kindly talking about it and then the avalanche of more traditional Catholics who start mocking the author and saying, “Oh they just want the Church to be open to whatever, be ok with doing anything, anything goes, they just don’t like rules.” It’s so frustrating to me because they get so caught up on deciding that this girl is a sinner and therefore shouldn’t get to belong in the Church, in their eyes, that they forget that this girl is a PERSON, and God loves people.

Catholicism is not an exclusive club for the perfect people, though it is often treated that way. I think a lot of people like the idea that they are the people who are “right” they are “God’s people” and everyone else is wrong. There is something liberating to that, I get it, that makes you one of the ones making it through the narrow gate, as it says in Scripture, and “they” are the evil ones.

Let me just come forward now and say, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t doing something wrong. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was a praying the rosary daily, offering it up, making sacrifices, going to Mass, and being kind kid, teenager, adult. I was M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E. I was terrified of doing something wrong and God would hate me, I was shunned in multiple Christian groups, once for a rumor because I quoted a sex joke on MySpace-so that all made all rumors about me true, once because I danced at Homecoming(no I didn’t grind but that’s what everyone thought), once because they thought I was on birth control, when I had really had miscarriages. I was HATED by the Church no matter how hard I tried to do things right.

I cannot tell you how many times I have raged about what a horrible place the Catholic Church is, and I am not one of the people who are just made because they don’t want to follow the rules. Stop blaming it on some public sin, or then not being good enough. The Church, as it stands right now, is not a welcoming place. There are Churches that are welcoming, there are a few groups that are welcoming, but they are few and far between and the hurt we are causing is monstrous.

The Church has a huge power, and that is to connect people with God, or to disconnect them from Him. My friends are falling away because they do not feel welcome or loved. I have wanted to fall away because I often do not feel welcome or loved. At my amazing Alma Mater, Ave Maria University, I met people who taught me that God is love, and He wants us unconditionally, and any rules He makes for us are to help us to live better lives. That God is a God who finds ways to heal people whether it is in Mass or not, He finds ways to help people, even if it’s a walk in nature. That is the God St. Paul talked about in Scripture when he talked about “easing burdens” for the people.

If it were not for that experience, and some that I am happy to be having right now, I would not be Catholic anymore. I would have run as far away from the Church as I can. Instead, I cling to what I can find of the God I recognize as a God of love, and I try to bring Him to others. I do not shame the people I know who have left because I have felt their pain, and I have seen how they have been hurt. And, for better or worse, I point out what the Church is doing wrong, because I pray and hope that one day Gods mercy and love will be what people think of when they think of the Church, and not anger and hate.

Mother Teresa, who ministered to all faiths, and saw the pain humanity is in, pray for us.

Yes, The World Needs God, But Not Like That

A couple of weeks ago, there was a shooting in Texas that just devastated me. A couple days before I watched The Hate You Give, which rocked me as well. Both of these events are on the heels of, and preceding so many horrible tragedies and fearful events happening all over they world lately. I find myself desperate for God’s love to be present in our culture. However, I immediately feel guilty and annoyed at this sentiment, which then makes me feel guilty and annoyed for feeling guilty and annoyed at that. I caught myself thinking at one point, “The world just needs God,” and immediately rolled my eyes at myself. That phrase is one I have heard a thousand times, and it’s one that makes me instantly angry and I disagree with, even though I technically agree with the sentiment.

The problem with the phrase “The World Needs God” is that most people who use this phrase mean it in a very particular way. “The World Needs God” means that the world needs people who believe the same thing I believe, teach the way I teach. Mostly, what it really means is “the world needs people who follow all the rules I believe in.”

In my experience, the people who use this phrase are often the same ones who talk about how “the homosexuals are taking over” and they are going “ruin the family” or are hateful towards mothers who are thinking about abortion, or who are unkind to a woman because her skirt is one inch too short. What they mean by “The World Needs God” has nothing to do with who God is as a person, and everything to do with who they believe He demands every person to be. These are the same people who talk about how the Church is getting smaller and that’s a good thing because all the lukewarm people are being weeded out.

What I mean when I say “The World Needs God” is something very different than the above. What I mean when I say it, is that the world needs UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The world needs a force of love and acceptance that heals wounds on contact. The world needs tenderness, thoughtfulness, kindness, respect, and love. The world needs something that is more powerful than itself that can radically help people suffering in an unkind world. When I say “The World Needs God” I mean it in a desperate plea for an outpouring of love and mercy that can heal the hurts that are far too big for any one person to heal.

I’ve had many eyes rolled at me for making this distinction. “Oh but rules are important too.” Sure. Yes. How we act is important. But what did Jesus do when He came? Did He come down and look for people doing wrong so He could make them feel bad about themselves every day? Do you think He would’ve been invited to dine with the sinners every night if He had? He talked to people about sin when they hurt others, or when they already knew what they needed to change. Far more than that, He worked miracles in their lives, He touched people, He was kind to people when no one else would be kind to them.

What would the world look like if Christians stopped talking about who doesn’t belong and who’s not good enough and started letting everyone know that God wants them? What if we looked for the abandoned and lonely and told them they were worthy? What if we healed people, touched people, embraced people? What if we were happier with a loud bustling Church than a quiet perfectly fine Mass?

I have seen churches where this happens and it changes everything.

So yes, the world needs God, but not a God who only shames every person who comes to Him. The world needs Jesus who loves people where they are at, and guides them tenderly to their best self.

Jaded

Ever since I grew to adulthood,

I hear the echoes

of everyone who told me,

“That’s not real.

That’s a fantasy.”

Most of the time, I silence them

With a wave of the hand,

And maybe a deep breath,

But then,

Sometimes, a wave of grief comes,

My heart begins to ask,

“Were they right?

Does God give us dreams to take them away?

Does He dangle hopes of a beautiful future,

Just to laugh when you are in pain?

There are times in my life when I believe them,

When the hope that God is listening grows as faint as a fading heartbeat,

The ache swells until my chest begins to cave into itself.

I cease to breathe in in terror of reality,

I force myself to breathe and anger overtakes me that God has turned His back.

But He hasn’t turned His back.

He is here when hundreds have told me He doesn’t hear me.

He is waiting for me when I can hear Him through the despair.

He hears me when I cry out in the pain of the skepticism that is our world.

Cast behind you the words of those who condemn you for belief in hope.

Cast behind you the belief that grief will win.

Cast behind you the grief that God doesn’t hear you,

And doesn’t love the real you.

There is a place for you.

Just because you haven’t found it doesn’t mean you won’t.

Use your wounds to heal others until you escape the chains,

And then free the slaves.

Sometimes God answers no, but not when it’s His promises to you.

If you are called to something, He will bring you to it somehow, I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

Even here in the darkness.

I believe.

The Beauty of the Crucifixion

My entire life I have struggled with the Crucifixion. I could never wrap my mind around God allowing His Son to go through something like that. To be honest, I don’t see that fully going away anytime soon, the problem of evil is my biggest hang up in life, and even when I find an answer to satisfy me for a bit, there’s still this nagging frustration about it existing. However, I have this image of what Jesus was trying to do that comforts me a little about it.

The biggest part of my struggle is this idea that Jesus came down to get crucified on purpose. That idea just literally makes me nauseous. I can’t stand it. However, I’ve had this idea lately, that maybe Jesus came to be human and all that that required, aka powerlessness over His fate.

What if He didn’t come for the purpose of being crucified, but to love. What if He came to be a person who loved us through everything, knowing that that does not end well in most circumstances. Maybe He chose a time in history when the suffering He would experience for it would be the worst it could be, but maybe His plan was not the pain.

I have this image of Him bloody and bruised looking at me and saying, “It’s ok to have a hard time. I’m here. I’ve been there.” It sounds crazy, like He would care about my tiredness on a long day of moming when His was so much worse, but I don’t believe that is how He works. Jesus said to the weeping women as He was carrying His cross “Weep not for me but for yourselves and your children,” and that revolutionized how I saw Him. When He was at His worst suffering, He was thinking of our pain. He saw us too. That doesn’t mean He wasn’t in pain, or struggling, but He saw us too. He didn’t say that we had no right to be sad because His suffering was worse. He basically said, “It’s okay to cry about what you are going through too, it is awful.” ♥️

Let that sink in for a second. I know I have to.

What a beautiful and amazing friend. Can we be that to other people?

Tuesday of Holy Week: Notre Dame Still Stands

I have seen pictures now. The Church still stands. It may not technically be a miracle because it wasn’t actually burned down to the ground, and I don’t even know how bad it got, but as far as I knew, it was a total loss. In my life, it is a miracle that Notre Dame still stands. The despair I felt yesterday, at knowing I would never see it is gone. It is still there. I can still go see it one day. It may be burned in spots, but it is still there.

In the meantime:

A writer quoted scripture “Oh Death where is thy sting?” alongside the picture of the Cross and the Pieta statue shining out from the rubble, proclaiming their strength.

Another talked about how St. Francis was told to rebuild the Church, and he did, but then he found out he was supposed to rebuild the Church as a whole, not just the one building.

Even more talked about how in the Middle Ages if a Church burnt down people believed that God wanted it built again, even greater this time.

I think pretty much everyone would agree that the Catholic Church and even the world is struggling right now. It is burning. Can we take this as a hint to build it back up better than it was?

Let’s destroy the hypocrisy, anger, despair, and judgement in the Church, to build a home of love for everyone.

Let’s destroy the hurt in the world, the slavery to debt, the misery, and replace it with love for others.

Let’s destroy the despair in our own hearts and misery, and light a fire of hope and joy that burns so big the whole world can see it.

St. Paul says “They shall know you are Christians by your love.”

Make it so.

First Impressions: Pope Benedict’s Letter about the Church Scandals

Ok, if you’re reading this, remember this is my first impressions upon reading only part of the letter, I’ll write again when I actually get to read the whole thing.

I have to admit all I want to do is roll my eyes so far. Seriously, just blame the whole thing on artists and the sexual revolution. I am so tired of people blaming everything wrong on single events. The traditionalists blame pretty much everything sinful on Vatican II, the liberals blame everything on guns, the list goes on and on of people blaming the huge problems of the world on one thing. What’s even worse is that the event is usually something that was intending to change something for the better.

Let’s just assume all of Pope Benedict’s complaints about the sexual revolution and the resulting sex and violence in film are legitimate. Even if he is correct about all of them, he is still throwing everything good that came with those things out, and especially their intentions.

Goethe wrote a book called The Sorrows of Young Werther. The book was about the dangers of romanticism(a tradition of literature that was heavily influenced by emotions.) The main character ends up committing suicide because he is carried away by his emotions. The point of the book is to show how dangerous romanticism can be if it is unchecked. So what happened in the wake of it’s release? People started committing suicide dressed like Werther. That was the exact thing that Goethe was trying to avoid, but he got decried basically because of the stupid people who didn’t get the point.

Still, artists get blamed for the results of their art no matter what they were intending to do, unless of course they are squeaky clean purist didactic church movies. This is, of course, something that just infuriates me. If the Bible has to be submitted to the rules these people put forth, it would fail over and over and over and over again. There is rape, incest, violence, orgies, human sacrifice, witchcraft, pagan worship, and more. Yet, the same people who call this “The Good Book” claim that art cannot have any of these things. So the Bible can but only because it’s The Bible.(Which brings up the other part of the Pope Emeritus’ letter that infuriates me which is the condescending argument against the philosophy that “the end justifies the means.”)

This drives me crazy. The people in favor of the sexual revolution condemn the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church condemns them, but if the Catholic Church could recognize some of the good that was brought about by the sexual revolution we could build towards a compromise that would help everyone. Instead, he is throwing around blame like a small child. This will never help anyone. It is just adding to division in the world.

Now, some of my Catholic friends are probably horrified because about now they think I am saying that pornography addiction is good and we should all have orgies until the whole world is Sodom and Gomorrah. Well, ok, I love sex, but no, that is not what I am saying.

What I am saying is that I am extremely grateful for the sexual revolution. I am in the unique position of having lived so sheltered and traditional Catholic that I experienced life in the pre-sexual revolution existence and I grew up and left home and got a quick introduction into a different kind of world.

Let me tell you the changes I saw that were positive and incredibly important:

1. Women are now able to learn about and talk about sex which prevents men abusing them. (Don’t tell me this doesn’t happen because of a lack of education because it does. I saw it.)

2. People are able to discuss sex and sexuality, which means that we can enrich marriages and make them happier

3. We are now able to explore the impact of sexuality and violence on our lives in art, and considering that these two things are probably the most intense experiences of life, that is crucial to being able to express the truth of reality which is why the Bible would probably not even be able to be rated if it were made into a movie because it’s so horrifying at parts.

My point in bringing these things up, is that in vilifying those he doesn’t agree with, Pope Benedict is immediately turning off anyone who values the sexual revolution and anything resulting from it. That is not the way to heal the deep and profound wounds in the Church. “Oh it’s not our fault. It’s yours because you talk about sex.”

Are you kidding me?

It’s divisive, petty, and it belittles the problem to a degree that infuriates me.

So….yeah….now I’ll read the rest of it ASAP and get back to you about the rest. So far I am less than thrilled. Obviously.

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